Terry Leonard, of Bath, left, and Frank Coffin of Austin, Texas, say their brother Derald Coffin, 43, was a hard worker who struggled with substance use. He was found shot to death on Woodford Street in Portland on Tuesday morning. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

BATH — Before Derald Coffin was shot dead on a Portland street this week, he was making plans to come home. He always did.

He had left Bath and his sprawling, tight-knit family about three weeks ago after a family disagreement and gone to Portland, but it wasn’t the first time he had made a temporary exit, his family said.

Derald Coffin in an undated photo with his son Levi, who is now nearly 4. Coffin also has a daughter, Darielle, 12. Photo courtesy of Terry Leonard

Coffin, 43, had a small army of relatives on the Midcoast who had always welcomed him back, even when they got upset by some of his poor decisions over the years or tired of the anxiety and frustration that came with his bouts with substance use.

But the extended family loved him deeply, and Darry, as they called him, knew he had safe harbor whenever he chose to chart his way back.

Drug use didn’t define him, his relatives said, but it was a force nearly as tenacious as his own work ethic, and one that had loomed off and on for two decades. Even when he wasn’t near his family and two children, Darry did not fall out of touch. He consistently called, and as recently as a week ago, said he wanted to get clean, to come home.

“Just last week (he said) he was leaving Portland to come live up here,” said his oldest brother, Terry Leonard, 50, of Bath. “He always tried to fight it. It was not who he wanted to be.”


Leonard, a former drug and alcohol counselor, said he knew his brother was not lost to addiction and thought Darry recognized how much love he had in his life, from his young son Levi, nearly 4 years old, to his daughter, Darielle, 12. Levi is his father’s spitting image, down to his bursting energy and desire to make people laugh, said the boy’s mother, Dana Wallace.

Terry Leonard shows a photo from 2013 of his brother Derald Coffin with a 4- or 5-pound lobster that he caught and brought to him. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

“Everywhere Levi goes, people notice him, and that’s the way it was with Darry, too,” Wallace said. “He just wanted to joke around all the time, maybe sometimes too much, but that’s him.”

Darry knew he could work in his stepfather’s body shop, or pick up jobs here and there fixing cars or fishing commercially, his income these last half-dozen years, his family said. They said he planned to return this weekend.

But Darry would not find his way back home this time.

Around 1 a.m. Tuesday, Portland police were called to a dense strip of homes in the 100 block of Woodford Street, a short walk from Back Cove and the bustle of Woodfords Corner.

Officers found Coffin shot to death in the street and a woman nearby, wounded by gunfire. Neighbors reported hearing a scuffle and multiple people arguing in the street, but so far police have said almost nothing about how or why Coffin was killed or what may have led him to the street in the first place.



The family has been left reeling from the loss, left to grieve together as they wait for word from police.

“(Darry) looked good and happy and was making plans,” said his brother, Frank Coffin, 47. “But he didn’t come home in time and someone shot him.”

They have no idea why Darry was there, but fear that it was connected, somehow, to the narcotics trade.

“Someone involved in the world of drugs did this to my brother, but my brother would have never done this to anybody,” Frank Coffin said.

Answers from detectives have been in short supply. As of Thursday, no arrests have been made, but police have been hammering away looking for the person responsible, said Darry’s mother, Cheri Gilley, 69. She trusts they will find the shooter, not only to answer for her son’s death, but so that no other mother will feel what she feels.


“We’re praying,” Cheri Gilley said. “That’s my biggest fear, that this guy will do this to another person’s child.”

Her son was not someone who was quick to anger, she said. Quite the opposite. Ever since he was a little boy, Darry was a dynamo of energy, sometimes struggling to sit still. He loved anything with an engine and could fix anything that was broken, it seemed like. When he found a skill he had yet to master, he taught himself, she said.

School was not a good fit for him, and at 16, Darry left to work construction building homes. He needed to be outside, to work with his hands.


As a child Darry loved the outdoors, be it hunting, fishing, or riding snowmobiles or four-wheelers. As an adult, working a desk job, or anything indoors, was out of the question.

He soaked up learning the trades, his family said, and was so good with his hands.


He had a gregarious, joking personality and was always looking to get a laugh. He was also determined to be liked. When he found someone he did not know, Darry introduced himself and was never shy, his mother said. It was a hallmark of his personality.

For a while he painted cars and did body work at his stepfather’s shop, said Terry Leonard. Sometimes he used the garage to work on an engine or fix someone else’s ride.

As a kid growing up, Darry and his brother, Jerry Coffin, liked to race cars on the thick ice of the New Meadows River during the winter, a local tradition now lost to warmer weather.

When one of Darry’s cars caught fire during a race, his family was horrified, but Darry laughed.

“He thought it was funny, because he knew what to do (to fix it),” his mother said.

Now, the family is left to wonder why their brother, their son, was shot dead in the street. It doesn’t fit with his personality, they said. Darry didn’t carry a gun – why would he? He was fast friends with people he met, and not the type of person to confront someone.

“Darry would have never thought someone had a gun on them and that he could have lost his life, because Darry would never do that to anyone,” said his mother.

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